In shopping The Mike Huckabee Show, owner Cumulus Media has promised that the radio program will offer "more conversation and less confrontation" and be a conservative alternative to Rush Limbaugh. Cumulus recently said it sees a "real opportunity" for Huckabee's show, which launched today, to succeed in the midst of controversy and advertiser boycotts following Limbaugh's misogynistic attacks on Sandra Fluke.
Huckabee's entrance into Limbaugh's timeslot comes after years of jabs between the two conservatives. During the 2008 Republican primary, Limbaugh claimed that Huckabee wasn't a true conservative, and if he won the nomination, it would "destroy the Republican Party." Huckabee, in turn, has criticized Limbaugh for calling President Obama a "man-child" and "flip-flopping" on whether Gov. Mitt Romney is a true conservative.
A look at Mike Huckabee's career shows that while the jovial former Arkansas governor is less acidic than Limbaugh -- an extremely low bar -- he's not above promoting conservative smears, such as falsely asserting that Obama grew up in Kenya and claiming the stimulus bill helped create "death panels."
Mike Huckabee tried to run for president as a conservative but was met with a cold reception from one influential Republican: Rush Limbaugh.
In December 2007, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder noted that Limbaugh "does not like the man from Arkansas" and asked "a prominent DC-based Huckabee ally" for his take. The unnamed ally responded by slamming Limbaugh: "Honestly, because Rush doesn't think for himself. That's not necessarily a slap because he's not paid to be a thinker--he's an entertainer."
Reflecting the feud between Limbaugh and the Huckabee camp, show segments from that period include such RushLimbaugh.com headlines as: "Huckabee's Rollins Trashes Rush Instead of Debating Conservatism"; "Huckabee Forces Attack El Rushbo"; "Democrats Want Mike Huckabee"; "The Heat Turns Up on the Gov. Huckabee" and "Huckabee Is No Ronald Reagan; There Is No Reagan in the Race."
In late December 2007, Huckabee was quoted as saying "I don't know [why he's mad] ... But all I can do is hope that Rush will love me as much as I love Rush because I think he's terrific and he's been a very clarion voice for the conservative movement. Somebody said something that upset him. I don't know who and I don't know what and I can't fix what I don't know."
Huckabee's comments apparently didn't fix their relationship.
On January 2, 2008, Limbaugh told his audience: "Ladies and gentlemen, Gov. Huckabee, mighty fine man and is a great Christian, is not a conservative, he's just not. If you look at his record as governor, he's got some conservative tendencies on things but he's certainly not the most conservative of the candidates running on the Republican side."
Two weeks later, Limbaugh said of Sen. John McCain and Huckabee: "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party, it's going to change it forever, be the end of it. A lot of people aren't going to vote. You watch."
Years later, Huckabee hasn't forgotten about the slights against him.
During a January appearance on Fox Business, Huckabee was asked about Limbaugh's questioning of Mitt Romney's conservatism. Huckabee coldly replied that "four years ago, [Limbaugh] couldn't get enough of him. And he loved him some Romney. And I don't understand what has happened with Rush's feelings, because Romney is the same today that he was four years ago." Huckabee later noted that people like "Limbaugh attack guys like me for not being conservative enough."
On his Fox News program on January 7, Huckabee again wondered if Limbaugh was "flip-flopping" when it came to Romney:
Huckabee also chided Limbaugh during an appearance on Fox News' Hannity in November 2009. After Fox News played a clip of Limbaugh defending his description of President Obama as a "man-child," Huckabee said: "He's certainly inexperienced. I don't know that I would use the same language that Rush did, but, you know, Rush has his own role to play in the world and I think mine's a little different. I don't find that everything Barack Obama does is wrong."
In an April 7 Politico story, Dylan Byers reported that Huckabee "declines to talk about Limbaugh directly" and "Huckabee is more reserved about" contrasting his style to Limbaugh's. However, Cumulus is "making a direct comparison with Limbaugh." Byers quoted one executive who said Huckabee's show "is going to be safer from a commercial standpoint, and more respectful from a listener's perspective. I think that environment has been sorely lacking in talk radio."
Though he isn't as vicious and crude as Limbaugh, Huckabee has still resorted to mudslinging and smears throughout his career.
Huckabee created a firestorm of controversy last year when he repeatedly claimed that President Obama grew up "in Kenya." During an appearance on a conservative radio show, Huckabee said that "one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American ... his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British are a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather."
After he was called out, Huckabee played the victim and offered the "gibberish" defense that he "misspoke" and that his comments were a "simple slip of the tongue." Huckabee also lied by claiming that on "page 183 of my book, I clearly said he grew up in Indonesia. It was a verbal gaffe. I immediately apologized. But that's not enough for the left-wing media." In reality, Huckabee did not mention Indonesia on page 183 or anywhere else in his book.
Additionally, Huckabee claimed that Obama "has a different worldview and I think it is, in part, molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas. And I just do think that there is -- again, I am not saying he's not a citizen, I've never said that, I've said the opposite. I've never said he's a Muslim."
In January, Huckabee returned to the same territory when he suggested that Mitt Romney -- who was being questioned about whether he would release his tax returns -- challenge President Obama to release his college application materials in order to "show whether he got any loans as a foreign student."
Huckabee has also drawn harsh criticism for his remarks about the LGBT community.
Huckabee has suggested that gay marriage is a threat to "stable society" and criticized those who "say they're conservative" but want to "overturn the historical definition of marriage." The New Yorker reported in June 2010 that Huckabee explained that he was opposed to gay marriage, in part, because of the "ick factor":
One afternoon in Jerusalem, while Huckabee was eating a chocolate croissant in the lounge of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, I asked him to explain his rationale for opposing gay rights. "I do believe that God created male and female and intended for marriage to be the relationship of the two opposite sexes," he said. "Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the ick factor, but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn't work the same."
In April 2010, the Associated Press reported that Huckabee compared gay marriage to legalizing incest, polygamy and drug use. Huckabee also reportedly said of the desire of gays to adopt: "Children are not puppies."
Huckabee told the interviewer that not every group's interests deserve to be accommodated, if their lifestyle is outside of what he called "the ideal."
"That would be like saying, well there's there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let's go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?" he said, according to a transcript of the interview.
The AP noted that in a 1992 questionnaire, "Huckabee, then a Senate candidate in Arkansas, spelled out his opposition to homosexuality, saying it was crucial that the country not 'legitimize immorality.'" Huckabee was quoted as stating: "I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle." Huckabee also "advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, saying it was necessary to confine 'carriers of this plague.'"
Huckabee has used his Fox News program to defend his anti-gay attacks and to promote virulently anti-gay guests.